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31 December, 2004

50 things to eat

A while ago, the BBC invited suggestions for the "top 50 things everyone should try a bite of in their lifetime". Here are the results.  I've eaten all except those in bold, and would be happy to eat those too, given an opportunity.  I've added a few comments, so I hope this entry isn't as pointless an exercise as it might seem initially.

1. Fresh fish. I'd like to eat this more often, but most varieties are too expensive for my level of confidence in my cooking ability i.e. I'm scared of ruining a meal I'd particularly enjoy.
2. Lobster. Yum!
3. Steak. The CJD crisis in the British beef industry didn't dissuade me from eating steaks, as the risk was largely – apparently – limited to nerve tissue and processed foods (cheap burgers, etc.) which might indiscriminately contain it.
4. Thai food. Lancaster used to have an excellent Thai restaurant, Som Siam, offering especially good fishcakes as a starter. Unfortunately, I haven't seen it open within the last year or so.
5. Chinese food. Of the people in Lancaster I'd choose to accompany to a restaurant, I seem to be the only one who likes Chinese food, so I eat it rarely. I do cook it myself, at home, but it's not quite the same.
6. Ice cream. I dislike wafer, so avoid ice cream cones, but ice cream itself is okay.
7. Pizza. I suppose there's no inherent reason to consider a pizza to be junk food, but that's the usual context, and I rarely eat one.
8. Crab. The white, fibrous leg meat is delicious; the dark red body meat is less pleasant.
9. Curry. I'm not sure what's meant by 'curry', but I do enjoy Indian cuisine.
10. Prawns. The variety of prawns commonly available in the UK are from Iceland: small, 'peeled', frozen (possibly multiple times in their route from sea to stomach), and little more than softly-textured carriers of salty water. Not worth the money, and I rarely eat them. Prawns as typically available on the quayside in Stavanger, Norway (my father's home city), are barely comparable: larger, whole (i.e. unshelled), fresh (perhaps frozen once) and delicious. Since I was about ten, whenever daily life became stressful, I was able to think that some time within the following year, I'd be in Stavanger, sitting on a mooring bollard (what's the correct term?) throwing empty prawn shells into Vågen (the guest harbour) as I worked my way through a ~500g bag. On reflection, I've only actually done that 3-4 times, but a buffet/salad featuring a large bowl of unshelled prawns has been a feature of pretty much every trip to Norway since 1978.
11. Moreton Bay Bugs – a variety of Australian lobster. Since I love lobster and prawns (garlic giant prawns are my all-time favourite food, mainly for the texture), I'm fairly sure I'd like these.
12. Clam chowder.
13. Barbecues. That's a rather vague category, but yes, on the whole I like barbecued food.
14. Pancakes. My absolute favourite meal as a child, and still one I like. Yes, as served in my mother's house, pancakes are a meal in themselves. She cooks them one at a time; I have just enough time to collect one from the kitchen, sprinkle sugar and lemon juice onto it, roll it into a tube, sprinkle more sugar and lemon on top and eat it with a knife & fork before another is brought through, then another, then another. I've typically managed eight before surrendering, slightly nauseous. As a child, it was one of the few ways my mother could feed me egg (which I still don't eat, except in pancakes and cakes – never just as a fried, boiled, poached or scrambled egg).
15. Pasta.
16. Mussels. Whenever available, I tend to choose these as a first course in restaurants.
17. Cheesecake.
18. Lamb. I like lamb in the context of a traditional roast dinner, but rarely in Indian meals, stir-fries, etc. Somehow the texture doesn't quite work.
19. Cream tea. I like scones, though I can't eat more than one or two at a sitting – there's something starchy about them. I like strawberry jam (though, as an aside, I don't like to encounter a fragment of whole berry), which, incidentally, is the equivalent of US 'conserve' (with seeds & pieces of the fruit), not 'jelly' (seedless & homogeneous). I like cream, in extreme moderation. However, the traditional cream tea consists of scones with jam and clotted cream, the very thought of which puts me off.
20. Alligator.
21. Oysters. I know I've eaten them at least once, but don't recall it.
22. Kangaroo.
23. Chocolate. I could happily eat a little chocolate each day, but only block-type chocolate, not chocolate -coated 'candy bars'. I favour Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate, which European connoisseurs mightn't even define as chocolate at all. I don't like many other manufacturers' milk chocolates, which do tend to taste of vegetable fat, but nor do I like high-cocoa 'plain' or 'black' chocolate. This obviously means I don't buy 'fair trade' chocolate, but that is only because I don't really like the taste, not because of an animosity to the idea itself (unlike organic produce, which I never knowingly buy).
24. Sandwiches. How vague is that?
25. Greek food. I'm not familiar with the full range of Greek cuisine, as I've only encountered elements of stereotypical 'international Greek' food.
26. Burgers. Hamburgers can be excellent, though I've yet to experience a decent one in a fast food restaurant. I'd always thought that food from a UK branch of, say, McDonalds was probably an inadequate imitation of that from a US branch, but when I was in New York in October, I was disappointed to find the burgers are identically awful.
27. Mexican food.
28. Squid.
29. American diner breakfast
30. Salmon. In some parts of the world, I understand this is a luxury, but here in the UK, and especially in Norway, it's more-or-less a staple item.
31. Venison.
32. Guinea pig. What?
33. Shark
34. Sushi. Only fresh – never bother with pre-prepared, from a supermarket or similar.
35. Paella. One of my earlier memories of 'foreign food' was of paella made from dehydrated prawns, vegetables and MSG added to ordinary boiled rice. Real paella was a pleasant surprise!
36. Barramundi.
37. Reindeer.
38. Kebab.
39. Scallops
40. Australian meat pie. So far as I know, this is the same sort of pie as we have in the UK. Writing this has reminded me that I haven't had a steak & kidney pie for years. I'll probably buy one next week....
41. Mango. I've never really liked mango, and find mango juice nothing special. On reflection, I suspect I've never eaten a ripe mango – they've always been rather hard.
42. Durian fruit. I'd like to try this, as Malay friends have mentioned it, but their descriptions haven't always been favourable.
43. Octopus.
44. Ribs.
45. Roast beef. A proper roast beef dinner, with Yorkshire pudding, can't be beaten, but done badly, there's little more disappointing.
46. Tapas.
47. Jerk chicken/pork. I've only eaten the version I've cooked myself, using store-bought marinades, so I'm not sure whether I can claim to have experienced the real thing.
48. Haggis. Scrupulously avoiding any thought of what it actually is, haggis is reasonably pleasant.
49. Caviar. This may be the only item on the list that I don't even wish to try – why eat fish eggs?
50. Cornish pasty. I can buy something bearing the name from the baker a couple of minutes from my office, but it's rare to find a real pasty – there's more to one than meat, carrot and potato in a fold of pastry.

[Via Shelley]

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